HC Deb 12 February 2004 vol 417 cc1562-3
21. Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab)

If she will make a statement on the report by the Privy Councillor Review Committee on the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, in so far as it relates to bribery abroad. [154530]

The Solicitor-General (Ms Harriet Harman)

The Privy Councillor Review Committee published its response to the Joint Committee on the draft Corruption Bill on 18 December. That report is due to be debated in this House on 25 February. The operation of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 continues to be under review.

Hugh Bayley

The Privy Councillors recommended a radical simplification of the law on international bribery and corruption. Will my right hon. and learned Friend assure the House that the provisions in the 2001 Act will not be repealed until there is better, clearer and simpler legislation on the statute book? Will she ensure that the new measures are phrased in such a way that investigations taking place under the existing legislation will still be able to proceed to prosecution?

The Solicitor-General

My hon. Friend raises various points, and I shall start by saying that the UK, as a signatory to the convention on combating bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions, takes its responsibilities seriously. The convention is the framework under which we operate. On 25 February, the House will debate the Privy Councillor report, which contains proposals on how provisions should be simplified to make them more effective. Obviously, we want simplicity, but the legislation must be effective. We need to make it work, and that is a matter that we will have to discuss and consider.

My hon. Friend asks whether the bribery clauses in the 2001 Act will be caught by the sunset clause. The Act contains a requirement for review, as its provisions were considered to be so important, as well as sunset clauses, which ensure that Parliament must positively re-enact those powers. However, there is no question that the Act's provisions in respect of bribery will fall into abeyance as a result of the sunset clauses. I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD)

The Solicitor-General may know that I and other hon. Members have corresponded with the police and the prosecuting authorities about allegations of bribery by UK companies in the arms export sector. Are any active investigations of that sector under way?

The Solicitor-General

The hon. Gentleman may know that, following reports in The Guardian in relation to BAE Systems, a number of items of evidence were passed to the Serious Fraud Office. The SFO originally considered a number of issues that broadly come under the heading of bribery, but decided that there was not enough material to warrant further investigations. It will always consider material that it is given, but I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman that any prosecutions are pending or that any active review is under way at present.

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